Las Vegas chefs are finding new, creative ways to use rice

By Heidi Knapp Rinella Las Vegas Review-Journal

July 31, 2019 – 7:06 am

With more than 40,000 varieties being cultivated around the world, rice offers much to explore. And Las Vegas chefs are always finding new ways to use it.

Oscar Amador, chef at Edo Gastro Tapas & Wine, was raised in Barcelona, Spain. He said he favors three varieties of rice: bomba, calasparra and senia. For a Spanish chef, he said, bomba “is like the king of rice. It’s short grain. It’s the perfect rice to cook the paella. It takes all the aroma from the broth you use.”

Calasparra, he said, is medium grain and used in meloso, which he said is sort of the Spanish version of risotto. And senia, which has a short grain, is used in “soupy rices” native to Barcelona.

Terence Fong, who has Zenshin at the South Point and Island Sushi & Grill on Eastern Avenue, has been a chef in Las Vegas for more than 40 years. Fong has cooked with numerous varieties and thinks most people — including chefs — are unfamiliar with many of them.

“Only certain chefs brought up in the culture are using” the less-common types, said Fong, a native of Hawaii.

“There are so many applications that rice can be used for, not just steaming and eating as is,” said fellow Hawaii native Ken Lum, chef de cuisine at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at MGM Grand. “You can grind it up and use it as a starch thickener. Rice flour — one of my favorite desserts is mochi,” an unbaked Japanese pastry made of pounded rice that’s used in various applications, such as wrapping it around balls of ice cream.

Alan Ji, executive chef of Mott 32 at The Venetian and a native of Shanghai, said in China alone, the rice in different regions of the country possess different qualities. And various types lend themselves to a variety of uses.

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